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How to Make Origami Jewelry

Updated on January 3, 2014

Origami Makes Beautiful and Personal Jewelry

Origami, the art of Japanese paper folding, can become a medium for beautiful hand-made jewelry. Japanese tradition says that when one has folded a thousand paper cranes that she will be granted a wish (or become enlightened, depending on the story).

As jewelry, origami is very unique. The folded paper models can be made into earrings, necklaces, hair clips and charms (with enough lacquer!).

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Making Origami Jewelry is a Unique and Rewarding Hobby

I have enjoyed making origami paper models since I was ten years old and our art teacher demonstrated how to make an origami flapping bird.

I enjoyed origami so much that I purchased several books on the subject and learned how make more animals over the years. There are many popular models, including paper cranes (popular in part due to the legend surrounding them) and frogs are particularly popular, but there are other models that are complicated and positively beautiful as well.

I recommend using paper cranes, frogs, or stars as illustrated by the videos below. These three are the best for making small models that will work well for jewelry.

How to Make a Paper Crane - One of the most common origami models

This video is very easy to follow. It is narrated simply all the way through. The creator does cut some corners in terms of some of the folds, but this only serves to speed up the process and make the folding somewhat simpler (if not a bit more difficult).

For making jewelry, your models will need to be significantly smaller than this. I do, however, recommend using the origami crane model because it is quite simple to fold and can be made very small -- suitable in size for earrings or a pendant.

If you are new to folding paper cranes, you may wish to fold a larger model several times before beginning the process of scaling it down.

The Legend of the Paper Cranes

Legend tells that if one folds 1,000 paper cranes that it will please the gods who will then grant a wish.

Supplies You Will Need to Make Origami Jewelry - From making the model to beading the jewelry

Origami paper comes in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes
Origami paper comes in a variety of colors, patterns and sizes

Choosing your Origami Paper

Origami paper comes in such a wide variety of options that it can seem intimidating at first. To begin with, you may wish to cut small squares of paper from printer paper or other heavier paper. Especially when working with very small models, you may find it difficult not to tear the lighter origami paper at first. Practice will help you to get it right, and it is best not to waste your origami paper (which can be quite expensive, depending on the brand and the source).

Your personal choice of papers will vary depending on the style of the jewelry you are making. If you are going to be using no beads at all, or simple clear glass seed beads, you may wish to work with an extravagantly patterned paper. This will give you quite a flashy and attractive oriental look. On the other hand, if you are choosing to use colored beads, you may wish to opt for a simpler paper in a single color. Most of my origami jewelry so far has been white!

You can purchase origami paper from Amazon (above) or do a web search for your materials. There are many wonderful options available to you!

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What is your Origami Experience?

What experiences have you had with origami?

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About Seed Beads for your Origami Jewelry

You may or may not wish to use seed beads for your origami jewelry. In particular, both necklaces and earrings will benefit from beads (hair clips obviously less so). I like to use glass seed beads when I make origami earrings (my favorite type of jewelry to make). They not only help to hide the head pin that I use to thread the model onto, but they add some sparkle and flash to the earrings, as well as some length. I have given several of these as gifts and friends and family have always loved them.

The choice of the type of beads to use is entirely up to you, of course. I have listed some above that can be purchased easily from Amazon.

You may wish to choose beads that coordinate with the color of your origami model. I have included a color wheel below so that you can choose contrasting or coordinating colors for your jewelry. This will help to make your jewelry more aesthetically pleasing.

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Choose your Bead Colors with a Color Wheel

The Color Wheel for your Beaded Jewelry
The Color Wheel for your Beaded Jewelry

When choosing the colors for your beaded jewelry, you may wish to do so with the aid of a color wheel. Though your eyes will probably be able to tell you (fairly easily!) whether or not two colors are pleasing together, the color wheel will help you to select the best possible combinations of colors.

Your best option is to choose complimentary colors. This refers to colors that are opposites on the color wheel. For example, blue and orange are complimentary colors. On this wheel, 5 and 23 are complimentary colors, and will look good together.

My recommendation when choosing colors is to choose a bead color that compliments your origami paper color. If your paper is pink, you may wish to choose to use green beads. The color wheel will help you to choose the shades for your origami jewelry.

Don't Forget!

Use a spray lacquer to stiffen the origami paper for your jewelry. Failure to do so may compromise the origami model so that it is easily damaged during wear.

Creating the Earring

The general theory of putting together a pair of origami earrings is just as below, except that the large bead is your small origami model. If you are working with a paper crane, you will want to push the head pin up through the small hole created at the bottom of the crane and straight up through the back. If you work in a straight line, the pin should pierce the paper easily (since the creases will have weakened this spot. Because of the lacquer, you may wish to use a sharp needle or awl to piece the model before inserting the headpin.

The way that you add your beads is up to you. If you have a round head on your headpin, then I would ordinarily simply add the crane, then several beads before finishing off the earring. If you are using a flat head on the headpin (what I normally use), put a seed bead at the end of the headpin before adding your model.

Other Origami Jewelry

You can use your lacquered origami model in place of beads in almost any kind of jewelry, provided that you make allowances for the size and shape of the bead. I haven't done a lot of experimentation with using origami models as anything but charms, but using the principles for the earrings, you can use origami models as charms in almost any situation where a charm is appropriate!

Have you made origami jewelry before? What was your experience with it? Please feel free to share but keep your comments on-topic. I do view comments before approving them (individually) and I do not approve spam! Angel blessings are, of course, always appreciated!

Share your Experiences!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What kind of lacquer works best? Does anyone have a particular brand or kind that they use?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm doing my own origami jewellery and am curious to know which spray lacquer are you using and if it provides a waterproof finish or just a water resistant one. Cheers

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Now those origami crane earrings could have been the rage for earning donations for relief of the recent Japan problems. Beautifully displayed.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very cool origami, one that I want to try. I love making jewelry.

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

      These look so good. I know someone who these would be perfect for!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      What a great idea I could see all sorts of applications with this idea.